Bears Starve as Poachers Pillage Russia's Wealth of Salmon

"We catch so many fish that the different salmon species no longer return. Once we've exhausted one species we move on to the next," Alexander said, offering me a spoonful of orange salmon caviar and a cup of tea.

Observers believe more than 100,000 tonnes of salmon a year are illegally fished. They are mostly taken for their caviar, which sells for 1,000 roubles (£20) a kilo. The fish are thrown away.

"In 1992 we caught 35,000 tonnes of king crab. Last year it was 3,400 tonnes. We need to stop fishing crab now if the species is to survive," Mr Vorobyev said.

In the Bering Sea, on the east coast near the foggy town of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, illegal Japanese trawlers have cleaned out the pollack.

Kamchatka has about 12,000 salmon-eating bears — the largest population in Eurasia. But they too are in trouble. In April and May American hunters using helicopters and snowmobiles shot 300 bears - a perfectly legal pursuit costing $10,000 (£5,000) per dead bear. Illegal hunting accounted for another 600. 


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